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How fifth-generation entrepreneur Meghana Manay is preserving her family’s century-old optician brand

In this interview for GenNEXT series, Meghna Manay, the fifth-gen entrepreneur and COO of SR Gopal Rao, an optical company in Bengaluru, shares her vision for preserving the family's legacy in opticianry and leading the iconic company into the digital age.

How fifth-generation entrepreneur Meghana Manay is preserving her family’s century-old optician brand

Tuesday May 23, 2023 , 2 min Read

Meghna Manay, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of SR Gopal Rao, an optical company based in Bengaluru, is carrying forward her family's century-old legacy in the field of opticianry. As the fifth generation of leadership and a woman to helm the family business, Meghna understands the significance of upholding a storied enterprise and propelling it into the future.

In an exclusive interview with SMBStory for the GenNEXT series, Meghna delves into the remarkable history of SR Gopal Rao, tracing its origins back to the late 1800s when SN Rama Rao, a distinguished watch and clockmaker, assumed control of the business from his father, S Narayen Rao, on Cavalry Road in Bengaluru.

A multifaceted entrepreneur, SN Rama Rao excelled in opticianry, watchmaking, and dentistry, emerged as the pioneering optician in Karnataka. He also served as the exclusive optician to the Maharaja of Mysore, Rajarshi (Nalvadi) Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. Some of the spectacles he crafted for the Maharaja are still displayed among his personal belongings at the Mysore Palace, a testament to his craftsmanship.

Later, SN Rama Rao established a shop near Tipu Sultan’s Fort, adjacent to Vani Vilas Hospital and Victoria Hospital, in Bengaluru. His son, SR Gopal Rao, became Bengaluru’s first qualified optometrist and rebranded the store on NR Road.

SR Gopal Rao had three children, two of whom—Malathi Manay (daughter) and Dr. Ramnarayan Rao (son)—remained deeply involved in the optical industry. Their commitment to the business has transcended three subsequent generations.

“As the fifth-generation entrepreneur in this business, I bear the weight of immense responsibility, facing numerous challenges while preserving the rich history that I am entrusted to uphold,” reveals Meghna.

Building up on legacy

After joining the family business in 2011, Meghna initially had to familiarise herself with the competitive landscape and adapt to the evolving industry. 

As Bengaluru has been a hub for innovation and experimentation due to its IT industry, the competition was growing rapidly. Recognising the need to stay relevant, SR Gopal Rao decided to open a third store, leading to Meghna's entry into the business. 

While some may question the limited number of stores for a century-old business, Meghna emphasises that SR Gopal Rao's growth is not solely dependent on store count. Its focus lies in personalised attention and maintaining the unique charm of a family-run establishment. 

Meghna’s mission is to ensure SR Gopal Rao becomes synonymous with quality eyewear across the world.

Edited by Megha Reddy